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The Top Things to Do in New Orleans

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Endless Activity Options in the Crescent City

Whether you’re a seasoned visitor to the Big Easy or a first-timer hoping to squeeze in a trip for Mardi Gras, New Orleans’ effervescent culture, mouthwatering food, and colorful history are sure to draw you in and make you never want to leave! And with so many fun things to do in New Orleans, you might just have to extend your visit.

The Crescent City teems with activity all day and well into the night as bars, jazz clubs, and speakeasies party into the late hours. Feel free to indulge, but be sure to get a few hours’ rest — you’ll need it in the morning when it’s time to wander the famed French Quarter, meander down Bourbon Street, explore favorite neighborhoods like Marigny, and visit the many historical sites around the city.

With so many places to go in New Orleans, it’s hard to know where to begin! Should you start with an eerie exploration of NOLA’s above-ground tombs or haunted places? How about a food tour of the city’s top restaurants? No matter where your visit takes you, the bustling streets and cultural hotspots of the Big Easy offer hours of entertainment. Check out some of the top things to do in New Orleans and start planning your visit today!

New Orleans Neighborhoods

Jackson Square at Sunset

We’re sure you’ve got the French Quarter on your list of places to go in New Orleans, but the city is full of other amazing neighborhoods you simply can’t miss! The eclectic mix of streets and neighborhoods offers something for every traveler, whether you’re looking for the best jazz, brunch spots, museums, or haunted places. From unique architecture and graffiti to vibrant nightlife, locals-only hubs, and more, the Big Easy’s network of neighborhoods is jam-packed with things to do. For a full breakdown of each notable neighborhood, head on over to our New Orleans Neighborhood Guide!

Start off with a visit to the French Quarter, dubbed the Crown Jewel of New Orleans. This historic neighborhood is known for a blend of old and new. Walk through beautiful Jackson Square, snap a photo in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, and check out Madame LaLaurie’s mansion on a haunted tour.

Make the journey uptown to the Garden District for some of the most beautiful sights in New Orleans — stately homes that gleam in the sunlight, restaurants with crisp white tablecloths, river views, oak-lined streets, and lush gardens. Walk down Magazine Street, visit the Audubon Park and Zoo, or just see where your feet take you.

Head over to Tremé, the oldest African American neighborhood characterized by shotgun homes and colorful cottages, as well as multicultural landmarks that will spark interest in history buffs and casual passersby alike.

Other neighborhoods of interest include the Arts/Warehouse District, the Central Business District, Marigny/Bywater, Esplanade Ridge, and more.

New Orleans Streets

Bourbon Street isn’t the only famous street in the city! With so many notable streets cutting through the Big Easy, there are plenty of places to enjoy shopping, eating out, and entertainment. Pay attention to the street names as you wander — you’re sure to recognize the French and Spanish names as well as references to saints and French royals. Bourbon Street Sign in New OrleansWhether you’re looking for the best streets for window shopping, nightlife, or outdoor entertainment, you’ll find something for everyone in the Big Easy. Not sure what you’re looking for? Check out our New Orleans Street Guide.

Bourbon Street is known for beads and balconies, the noise of music and crowds, and a distinctly nocturnal atmosphere. Color and excitement abound on this crowd-favorite street, especially during Mardi Gras, but there’s plenty to do year-round. Check out the Royal Sonesta Hotel, Galatoire’s Restaurant, and the Old Absinthe House.

Head to Magazine Street for a leisurely adventure (seriously, you could take an entire day to explore this six-mile street!) and plenty of shopping. This is not your average outdoor mall experience — fascinating shops and charming old homes neighbor each other, interspersed with restaurants and warehouses.

Located downtown, Canal Street is home to restored theaters, opulent boutiques, and even the occasional annual parade during Mardi Gras and Christmas. Looking for something unique? Make a stop at the Audubon Nature Institute’s Insectarium for a look at Canal Street’s tiniest residents.

Other memorable streets to explore include St. Charles Avenue, Frenchmen Street, Royal Street, and more.

Festivals & Music

It’s no secret that NOLA loves to party! The city comes alive daily with everything from traditional jazz to newer music genres and opens its doors to artists and fans of all kinds. But the party really starts during the city’s festivals, when crowds take to the streets to celebrate a holiday or event, share their passion for food and cocktails, or just enjoy a good time. And we’re not just talking about Mardi Gras — New Orleans hosts over 100 festivals a year, so you’re sure to find cause for celebration no matter when you visit. Not a fan of crowds? You can always hit the jazz brunch circuit for delicious food and laidback entertainment.Mardi Gras float rolling down city street in New Orleans

New Orleans’ festival and music scene is deeply rooted in the city’s slave and immigrant history. Known as the birthplace of jazz, the Big Easy sways to the sound of gospel, hip-hop, rap, and joyful music of all kinds. From Louis Armstrong to Buddy Bolden, one of New Orleans’ claims to fame is the notable musicians born and raised here.

Locals and visitors alike celebrate their legacies daily at jazz clubs like Preservation Hall, the Parish Room, Polo Club Lounge, and more. And these crowds take to the streets during New Orleans’ incredible festivals. From film and art festivals to holiday events, there’s always a reason to celebrate. Some of our favorites include Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, oyster-shucking and crawfish cook-off festivals, and of course, the various Mardi Gras parades and festivals.

For a full list of all the best festivals, see our festival and music guide.

Restaurants & Bars

There’s only one way to fuel all that dancing and sightseeing — with some traditional NOLA food, of course! New Orleans is home to some of the best dining in the world, with everything from classic Creole favorites to imaginative cocktails and modern bites. Every neighborhood has its own flavors, so you’re sure to find something new to try at every Shrimp gumbomeal.

Not sure where to start? Dig into a classic New Orleans Sunday brunch (with a side of jazz, of course) for build-your-own bloody Marys, bottomless mimosas, beignets, and breakfast favorites, Big Easy style. Craving a little French influence? You can’t go wrong with a New Orleans bistro, combining French cuisine with Louisiana spice. If you’re looking for outdoor dining, the area’s tropical climate is perfect for restaurant patios and food trucks. And NOLA’s party scene means late-night eats are always available. Some famous Big Easy restaurants include Commander’s Palace Restaurant, Galatoire’s, Cafe Du Monde, and others.

Of course, once you pick a restaurant, you have to decide between some amazing traditional dishes! Don’t worry; we’re sure you have time to try them all! Some of our favorites are gumbo, crawfish etouffee, beignets, po-boys, king cakes, and so many more. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, see our New Orleans food guide for inspiration.

New Orleans History 

New Orleans’ unique, diverse culture is rooted in the fascinating history that weaves a tale of voodoo, French and Spanish conflict, slavery, immigrants, and more, all of which influence today’s music, food, architecture, and experiences. 

History is alive in New Orleans, as evidenced by the city’s cemeteries, cobblestone streets, ancient oak trees, and cherished traditions. Spanish and French influences harken backLouis Armstrong Park in Congo Square, New Orleans to when ownership of New Orleans passed between both groups. Other groups to make their mark on the city include pirates, the British, Creoles, slaves, African Americans, voodoo queens, and more.

Various traditions remind us of the city’s history, from the events of Mardi Gras and voodoo practices to jazz funerals, St. Joseph’s Day, second-line parades, and other cultural events. 

More tangible tributes to the Crescent City’s background can be found in the many historic buildings and landmarks, like Congo Square, a place where slaves and free black people gathered for meetings in the 19th century, and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where voodoo queen Marie Laveau is buried. There are also dozens of monuments, churches, and museums devoted to the city’s unique heritage. For a full list, head on over to our New Orleans history guide.

With so many things to do in New Orleans, you never know where your trip to the Big Easy will take you! Map out your visit based on the neighborhoods or streets you want to visit, or for some more inspiration, check out a New Orleans tour for the inside scoop on the city.